Each month, we take 5 minutes to ask a lettings industry expert 5 things. This month we are talking to Alan Blockley, CEO of teclet, who has a mixed background of Business Development, Consulting and IT, within various Blue Chip industry sectors such as retail, manufacturing, insurance and property.
In this latest interview, Alan talks to us about his varied career, surviving the pandemic – and his personal strategy for continued success in what looks set to be a particularly difficult year for agents…
If you had under a minute to ‘sell’ teclet to a lettings agency, what would you say?
The teclet lettings platform was created due to the frustration of real agents dealing with a complex and highly regulated process.
The platform is built from the end-customer perspective with dedicated Portals for each of the key groups: Landlords, Tenants and Guarantors and, of course, Agents. These Portals enable the customer to carry out everything they need to do. Not only that, but the platform links seamlessly to a host of product service suppliers meaning the customer no longer has to log in to a multitude of places to complete their tenancy – it is all seamlessly managed within teclet.
teclet drastically reduces the time and effort in the tenancy process by up to 80%. Imagine never having to chase a missing document or take a payment.
Not only substantial time savings but it deals with the key compliance points with 100% accuracy, 100% of the time, leaving the agent time to deal with the relationships, and not the administration.
Customers also seem to love it – up to 40% of our transactions are carried out while the agents’ offices are closed – obviously rising to 100% in a lockdown.
With such a focus on automation, I imagine you have seen continued success with teclet in spite of the current circumstances? Is there any particular moment in 2020 that stands out to you?
The thought of living in a pandemic was unimaginable less than a year ago. It has been a rollercoaster in so many different ways. As the CEO of a business, the sheer weight of responsibility to our team and our customers was enormous; especially in late March 2020 as it was unfolding hour by hour.
It was even worse for the team, who were also watching the world unfold – but not involved in the fundamental decisions affecting them. Thankfully our team is still very much intact and well.
The most notable moment for me was rolling out the teclet lettings platform to a London-based agency. The implementation plan was to deliver face to face training sessions to all of their lettings staff in their 30 or so offices. This was planned to happen over a 3 month period. Lockdown struck about a week into the schedule with just 2 offices live.
The agency had no way of conducting business using a traditional lettings process during lockdown – so faced a tough choice to either go ‘hell for leather’ to get live – or leave the offices closed until we came out the other side. This particular agency did not do things by halves – and faced a difficult decision.
They made one. And 2 weeks later, all staff were trained through live webinars – and 100% of their new lettings were put on the teclet platform.
They, and our other customers, were, and still are delighted – because that agent alone took seven figures of fee income in those first 3 months during lockdown. It also taught us a thing or two about how to quickly and effectively train people.
From 1985 – 1998, you worked in a variety of roles at BUPA, from business analyst to programmer to project leader to project manager and finally the IT Manager responsible for delivering systems to the UK Service Director. I’m really interested to find out to what extent you feel your extensive experience within that sector back then has contributed to where you are today? And what was it specifically that steered you towards the property/lettings sector (I’m slightly unclear where/how Glanty comes in for example?)
You seem to have found a copy of my CV!
Firstly, to make some sense of “Glanty”, and also to clarify where property meets IT in my life. My grandfather bought the Glanty Hotel in Egham, Surrey, I believe in 1952 (and before you go looking for it, it is now under the M25)! My grandfather, my parents, myself and my brother have been involved in property all our lives – and we have kept the Glanty name alive for almost 70 years.
Glanty Limited was born in 2005 with my IT Consulting business – and morphed into what you see today.
My ‘day job’ career has run in parallel with my property interests. I have worked with some amazing people at BUPA, M&S, Edwards and now Glanty, who have taught me so much. I ‘switched sides’ completely about 15 years ago from delivering IT, to delivering business projects; and that is what I truly love doing – delivering tangible change.
I have been lucky to work on many varied projects and have, quite accidentally, built a broad range of skills that almost prepared me to take on the CEO role at teclet (although nothing can really prepare you for your first CEO role in a start-up).
The IT Consulting business was wound down in 2014 when teclet was a twinkle in the eye of Stacey Main, a long term friend, co-founder, and subject matter expert in the property sector. He had a vision that the lettings process, with all its complexity, could be automated – but he needed the ‘corporate’ skills to set up and run the business . That is where I came in.
‘Automated lettings’. 5 years ago it was inconceivable. It seems quite straightforward to us now, and to our credit there are a number of companies offering similar functions; but thankfully, we are still several years ahead – and fully intend to stay there.
What has been the single most valuable thing you have learned in your career?
I have (almost) learned from long and painful experience to shut up and listen to others before making a decision.
What are your predictions for the lettings industry in 2021?
Depending on what Rishi Sunak comes up with in March; the end of the Stamp Duty holiday and changes to CGT will undoubtedly have an impact to the housing stock. But I believe the underlying fundamentals driving people to move (and some new ones driven by Covid) are still very much in evidence. I believe the impacts to the sector will be limited when looking at transaction volumes.
There will be a tranche of people leaving the cities and seeking more space, but conversely, we are already seeing others coming back to the cities to take advantage of the reduced rents. Either way, there are a lot of people moving.
The impact of the pandemic on jobs will have huge implications. There will be implications for landlords due to increasing rent arrears, the ability of unemployed tenants to find homes – and the clogging of the courts once evictions start again. It will be a tragic mess.
There will inevitably be a number of agencies folding – and the consolidation we have already seen will continue. I believe that fewer, but better agents will survive and thrive. The better agents will be getting the basics right, using tools to streamline their businesses and will be embracing the emerging trends that are working well.
The sector likes talking about ‘getting the basics right’. I believe this has never been more important for success. Don’t believe the marketing hype! Observe what is working well in the industry, look at successful businesses you admire, find out how they do things – and then copy them!
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